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DACA Gave Me a Little Bit of Faith in Humanity

BY GUEST BLOGGERAugust 11, 2014

The following is a part of a series of reflections by Jesuit university graduates who have received temporary immigration status through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which was established by the Obama administration in 2012.  On Friday, August 1, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to rescind DACA status.

written by: Maria Ibarra-Frayre | University of Detroit Mercy ’12 & Former Jesuit Volunteer

Maria IbarraIt was the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola when I learned that the U.S. House of Representatives would cast a vote to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

My first reaction was that familiar fear I used to have when I heard the words ICE or border patrol.  My second reaction was, “what am I going to do if it goes away?”  I thought immediately of my job and how much I have enjoyed it, and also worked harder than I have ever before, appreciating the fact that I could in fact work legally.

I saw that old familiar feeling of fear and questioning creeping up.  It’s strange how quickly I became accustomed to the privileges that DACA offered.  Big ones like my full time job with benefits and small ones like the library card in my wallet.  For a few seconds I felt like had had lost them.

If I was writing this reflection when I first got involved with the immigrants’ rights movement at the age of 19 it would be full of rage.  Emotional disbelief that people can be so calloused and blind to the injustice of our immigration system.

But after DACA I became more careful, reticent even.  Maybe it was because although we weren’t done with the fighting but we did win a small battle.  The passage of DACA in 2012 gave me a little bit of faith in humanity and a better sense of perspective.

I processed my DACA documents during my year of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.  After hearing and seeing the stories of my clients I couldn’t help but feel an amazing sense of privilege to have access to DACA status.  Who was I to complain about not having a driver’s license when my client was not only undocumented but also a victim of domestic violence?  What did it matter if I didn’t have a library card when community member’s patient didn’t know how to read? A lot of what I thought I knew changed when I was a volunteer.

Having that experience taught me the values of patience and faith. But two years later it is hard to be patient when I turn on the TV and see thousands of immigrant children bounced around from state to state and people protesting in the streets because they don’t want these poor innocent kids receiving shelter in local facilities.  It’s hard to be faithful and believe Congresspersons are beginning to see the struggles of immigrants when I hear that they want to repeal DACA.  That little bit of optimism is slowly dwindling, and I don’t know what to do.

Should I return to the passionate anger I once had?  To the protests and marches?  They made me strong and brave, but it’s hard to see that courage right now.  Or should I learn on what I learned during my Jesuit education and in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and trust in the slow work of God?  If it’s there – it is very, very slow work.

I do not have the answer.  All I can say is that the U.S. House of Representatives vote feels like a slap in the face.  It says that my work and my contributions, my life here in the United States do not matter.   This vote says we are moving backwards, we are regressing into a country where human dignity is not recognized.  And if we can’t even see the humanity in the face of a crying child, what hope do we have for the future?

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